Surviving a dead world

Tyler Bar-Ness

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Project Zomboid rises from sleeping genre

Zombie games have enjoyed a spot in the limelight in video game culture, mostly action and first-person shooters. Focusing on brutal combat, many of these games have neglected the horror of living in a world overrun by zombies.

For gamers who prefer the struggle of survival, there is now Project Zomboid, a survival-horror game by team Indie Stone for purchase on Steam and Desura, digital distributors for computer games.

The game is in alpha testing, but is available for playtesting and early access.

Gameplay | 3/5

With simple controls that are easy to remember, the gameplay of Project Zomboid is enjoyable. The only definable objective of the game is survival. In a world infested by the living dead, this is easier said than done. Houses with security systems may attract hordes of the living dead, and forgetting to turn off the oven could leave zombies with a fresh, cooked meal.

There is also the matter of food and water. With nobody around to stop the player, grocery stores and pharmacies are fair game. However, the food will eventually spoil, and these places are sure to be home to zombies.

The player must keep his character occupied to stave off the depression and boredom brought on by a world without people. By reading books or keeping a journal, the character can stay positive as he rebuilds.

There are three single-player modes: survival and sandbox are both described above, where sandbox allows players to edit their game’s settings. The third mode, last stand, is a fight against waves of zombies, where the goal is to kill as many zombies as possible.

There is a multiplayer survival mode as well. With friends, there is the added benefit of safety in numbers, but players are only as safe as their weakest link. One friend can forget to turn the oven off or trigger an alarm, dooming his companions.

Narrative | 1/5

As far as plots go, Project Zomboid does not give the player much to gnaw on. There is one goal: survival. Players are set down in a world where man has fallen, and the player measures their success by how long they can last.

Visual | 3/5

Project Zomboid uses pixel art in a skillful manner. While it cannot compete with larger developers, the game’s appearance has a retro charm. The style is clear enough to tell the difference between a player’s character and a zombie, but not so detailed that it crowds the models.

Music | 3/5

With a small soundtrack, Project Zomboid manages to avoid being an entirely silent game. The music establishes a lonely, tense atmosphere. Audiophiles may wish to look to other independent games for a more musical experience.

Depth | 4/5

This game has more depth than length. With a simple crafting system for furniture, player-made buildings and a variety of recipes to prepare food, Project Zomboid is on its way to being an immersive, in-depth survival game.

Technical skills could grant the player more options when raiding houses or preserving food. The ability to turn off house alarms and lights before entering a home could mean the difference between a safe search or a race to gather supplies before the undead arrive.

The game lacks the personal touch that trading and surviving with another character provides. The developers have confirmed they are planning to add non-player characters, but for now there is only one non-zombie character.

In the end

Project Zomboid is on its way to becoming an example of content over visual quality. With a simple combat system and still-growing crafting list, it could become a must-play survival game. The lack of narrative is not a mortal blow as surviving day-to-day was a challenge, but Project Zomboid has a lot of room to grow.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars